This Italian and Jewish surname of PERLSTEIN was an occupational name for a trader in pearls, which in the Middle Ages were fashionable among the rich for the ornamentation of clothes. The name was rendered in medieval documents in the Latin form PERLA. The name was also an Ashkenazic Jewish ornamental name, an Anglicized form of the Yiddish female given name PERL, a translation of the Hebrew MARGALIT. The name was originally from a Latin female personal name MARGARITA, and was borne by several early Christian saints, and became a popular female given name throughout Europe. Other spellings of the name include PEARL, PEREL, PERLE, PEARLMAN, PERELSMAN, PERLESMAN, PERLI, LA PERNA and PERLA to name but a few. A notable member of the name is Philip PEARLSTEIN, born in 1924 in Pittsburgh, PA. He is a painter, and following army service he worked as a graphic designer, and in 1949, moved to New York City. In the 1950's he produced bold landscapes, but from 1960 made detailed studies of the male and female nude. There are many German-Jewish names which are merely the results of fancy or the vindictive thoughts of petty officials, adopted when the Jews in Europe were compelled to take surnames in the early part of the nineteenth century. Some of the most familiar, end in STEIN (stone) usually meaning a precious gem. Many who adopted names with pleasant connotations had to pay handsomely to the money-grabbing official for the privilege. Many other names were from names of German towns and cities, and are sometimes borne by other than Jews. From the 16th century many Jewish family names were derived from the house or shop signs in the Jewish quarter of Frankfort and elsewhere. House signs were particularly favoured by Jews, and they were reluctant to give them up. When the city council in 1776, ordered the houses in Frankfort's Judengasse to be numbered, there was such a resistance that they fined the whole Jewish community.
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